With the announcement of Microsoft's next generation gaming console, the Xbox One, it has emerged that the new system carries a device that will be 'constantly listening' to gamer's conversations.
In a PR move attempting to make the Xbox One appear more attractive, Microsoft's hardware program manager, John Link, let slip that a component bundled with the console, the Kinect, will contain a microphone that never turns off.
The current version of the Kinect also contains a microphone but that can be switched off.
Speaking last night, Link said:
"The Kinect has a variety of settings. You know, it's always available to the system, so ... you can count, as an application developer or a game developer, [that] everyone's going to have a Kinect. You always have that stream available. And then, you know, there are settings, obviously, in the console to be able to change the settings of how your Kinect is used, if you're interested.
"It will be just listening enough to know that, 'Hey, I heard something interesting. Somebody's probably trying to wake me up.' It sends it to the console for confirmation, and then it can really power up to that high-power state."- Advertisement -
The new system can automatically detect and identify users through their body shape and voice. The system can also monitor heart rates.
Microsoft were quick to defend the technology, releasing a statement:
"The new Kinect is listening for a specific cue, like 'Xbox on,'" the spokesperson said. "We know our customers want and expect strong privacy protections to be built into our products, devices and services, and for companies to be responsible stewards of their data. Microsoft has more than 10 years of experience making privacy a top priority. Kinect for Xbox 360 was designed and built with strong privacy protections in place and the new Kinect will continue this commitment."
They also added:
"We aren't using Kinect to snoop on anybody at all. We listen for the word 'Xbox on' and then switch on the machine, but we don't transmit personal data in any way, shape or form that could be personally identifiable to you, unless you explicitly opt into that."
However, the company aren't exactly known for their commitment to privacy.
We recently revealed how the company were involved with 'Legal intercept' technology that provides governments with an easy way to monitor VoIP communication, and how the Kinect could be potentially used to restrict activity in the home.
Not to mention that last year they helped police to build a surveillance system across New York which connects a wide variety of technologies together for the NYPD. They hope to sell the big brother system to other cities around the world.
Its not just Microsoft that Xbox One users should be concerned about, it's also malicious hackers who could eavesdrop on conversations in the living room via the Internet.